La malaria como punto de partida para el abordaje de otras enfermedades

Malaria as an Entry Point for Addressing Other Conditions”

20.4.2015

[This blog is part of the #DefeatMalaria World Malaria Day blog series hosted by Roll Back Malaria, to be published between April 8 and May 1, 2015]

Malaria is still one of the leading causes of death and illness in children under five years, but is only one piece of a larger picture. When considering child health, we cannot look at malaria in isolation from other major illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, which account for a large proportion of deaths of young children. In addition, malnutrition is an underlying contributor to all of these conditions, heightening the risk of infection as well as poor health in general. There are also similarities when it comes to assessing and treating illness. Pneumonia and malaria, for example, are both associated with fever, meaning they are often confused – ultimately leading to inappropriate and unnecessary treatments.

In our experience, one key strategy to improving health outcomes in young children lies in integration. Recognising the high amount of overlap in symptoms and location among the main childhood illnesses, Malaria Consortium has used its expertise in malaria as an entry point to address these other conditions in order to improve overall health.

Our history with disease control began with malaria, but over time it expanded from there. A grant from Irish Aid allowed us to explore health gaps in four African countries, and use our malaria expertise as a way to strengthen health systems by addressing weaknesses related to delivery of effective healthcare, particularly at district level. In Uganda, we supported the National Malaria Control Programme to pioneer a Home Based Management of Fever strategy, which focused on training volunteers, known as community drug distributors, to treat children with malaria in their own communities. Subsequently, with the World Health Organization and UNICEF endorsing the integrated community case management (iCCM) strategy – which trained community health workers to diagnose and treat a number of childhood illnesses including malaria – we spearheaded and began to advocate for large-scale adoption of the strategy, working to ensure that it became incorporated into national health systems. In South Sudan, this strategy included assessment and treatment of acutely malnourished children.

The results of integrated healthcare have been positive. Not only have these activities brought services closer to home by training community health workers particularly in remote areas, but they have also facilitated links between far-away villages and health centres.

The benefits of these approaches are now being recognised more widely, so that organisations such as the Global Fund have started to support integrated strategies within funding that was originally reserved for malaria. Now, we need to make sure that more and more reliable funding mechanisms are established for these initiatives so that they continue to produce better health outcomes and increase access to effective healthcare for vulnerable children.

For more information about Malaria Consortium’s community based care delivery, please see our website

About the Author

Helen Counihan is responsible for coordinating Malaria Consortium’s iCCM programmes in four African countries. She previously specialised in international health research.